Rosé for summer

by Michael Cooper / 03 January, 2012
Rosé is a perfect picnic wine for the long, hot summer ahead.
It’s easy to dismiss rosé as lolly water, but the 100-plus labels now on the shelves are far more enjoyable than that. A delicious wine style in its own right, pink wine is hard to resist during summer’s heat.

Rosé barely registers on sales charts here, accounting for 1% of all wine sold in supermarkets. In France, it’s a different story. Highly popular as an aperitif and at soirées, rosé has surpassed white wine as the second biggest-selling style after red.

The good news is that interest in New Zealand rosé is growing. Rosé exports approached 70,000 cases this year – a steep rise from 905 cases in 2003. And the damp 2011
harvest in many regions has boosted rosé production, as winemakers look to concentrate their reds by draining a small portion of the juice for rosé.

Pinot noir and merlot are the grapes most in demand for rosé, and regional differences are emerging. Rosés from Hawke’s Bay and the north are typically merlot-based, full-bodied and relatively dry, whereas those from southern regions, based on pinot noir, tend to be slightly lighter, sweeter and crisper.

Esk Valley, in Hawke’s Bay, produces New Zealand’s most acclaimed rosé. “Our rosé is created from the same merlot and malbec grapes that are crafted into our red wines,” says winemaker Gordon Russell. Before the fermentation of a red wine, when the grapes’ skins have coloured the juice sufficiently, up to 10% is extracted, then cool-fermented like a white wine in stainless-steel tanks, to capture its fresh, vibrant red-fruit flavours. The ferment is stopped just short of dryness, leaving a sliver of residual grape sugar, and the wine is bottled young.

Whether you see rosé as a tinted white or an ultra-light red, most veer a lot closer to white than red wine in terms of basic style. When buying rosé, always go for the newest vintage, as freshness is the essence of its charm.

Serve it cool but not cold, because its delicate flavours can be overwhelmed by excessive chilling. A perfect picnic wine, rosé is magical with salmon.

Neudorf Nelson Pinot Rosé 2011
Vivacious pink/pale red summer sipper with fresh strawberry, apricot and spice flavours, dryish, finely poised and rich. $23

8 Ranges Central Otago Pinot Rosé 2011
This inviting, bright pink rosé from Alexandra is crisp and lively, with strong strawberry and spice flavours and a finely balanced, slightly creamy finish. $25

Esk Valley Merlot/Malbec Rosé 2011
“If any wine in our range has a smile factor, it has to be the rosé,” says Gordon Russell. Mouthfilling and vibrantly fruity, it offers strong flavours of plums and spices, fresh and dryish. $24

Framingham F-Series Montepulciano Rosato 2011
From the Montepulciano variety (grown widely across central Italy), this Marlborough rosé has an enticing, bright pink/pale red colour, satisfying body and vibrant, berryish flavours, showing excellent delicacy, freshness, poise and depth. $25

Tohu Single Vineyard Nelson Rosé 2011
From Upper Moutere, this bright pink, fleshy wine is bursting with fresh, slightly sweet, berryish, plummy flavour. $22

Spy Valley Pinot Noir Rosé 2011
“Guaranteed to enhance a romantic evening for two”, this pale pink Marlborough wine is delicious. It has strong, vibrant strawberry and spice flavours, with a hint of apricot, slight sweetness and excellent freshness, delicacy and harmony. $23

Wooing Tree Rosé 2011
Estate-grown in Central Otago’s Cromwell Basin, and partly oak-aged, this pale pink wine has fresh strawberry, peach and slight apricot flavours, slightly sweet, seductively smooth and rich. $25

Richmond Plains Nelson Monarch Rosé 2011
From pinot noir grapes in conversion to BioGro, this pink/pale red rosé is berryish and spicy, with a touch of complexity and good depth. It is packaged in the country’s lightest 750ml glass bottle, which when filled with wine “is lighter than some other bottles empty”, says winemaker Lars Jensen. $20
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